There is absolutely nothing at all ever that could have prepared me to look up at the tiny grainy monitor and see two blobs. It was the first scan there had already been a few little issues so I was having an early scan 6w6d according to the picture.
I asked through tears if the blobs I could see were twins and was bluntly told they were! I was at the scan by myself because Hubby had to be at work. The only other information was that I needed to have an urgent appointment with my Dr. It is never a good thing being told to wait while the results are phoned through. I needed to pull myself together as I was actually on my way to work. I managed to get through the double Yr12 legal studies lesson that I had that day. Normally I would have stayed on for sport but I was in no fit state to be anywhere but home.
I had called Hubby at work to let him know we had twins onboard and through my tears I said I had to go to work. The poor guy this wasn’t the first time I had delivered news like this to him over the phone (I called him at work when I found out we were having our son to let him know we were pregnant!) Before I had left school I had appointments for the GP to get a referral and an appointment with my Obstetrician for that afternoon. Hubby was on his way home and we arranged to drop our son off with Hubby’s parents while we attended all these appointments. At this point we knew we were having twins and there was clearly an issue that needed to be addressed but we didn’t understand what that was.
We soon discovered that there was a very real concern that our girls were in the same inner and outer sac (things you find out when you are pregnant with multiples there are two sacs around babies!) We went off to the GP who gave us the referral and faxed off the report from the ultrasound that morning to our Obstetrician. Our Obstetrician was really very warm and friendly, which really was quite important given the amount of time we spent in his office over the next few months. He took a lot of care to explain what this all meant for us and he gave me some medication to assist with my hyperemesis and we left his office with another referral and appointment to a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. We were told we had a three week wait because that was the perfect window to see if there was in fact a membrane between our girls.
Three weeks is an incredibly long wait and let me tell you 11 years ago there was no good news for monochorionic monoamniotic pregnancies. Finally our appointment came around and our MFM (whom we were also to become close friends with!) told us that he was sure that he could see a membrane, tiny and thin but a small membrane was much better news than we were expecting that day. Even though there was a membrane it was often not evident as you can see in this image there should be a line between the girls’ heads but it is barely visible. This is 26w6d they look like they are almost kissing!
I would love to say that my pregnancy with the girls was a long and completely uneventful but honestly that is simply just not the way I do things in life. If there is a long, complicated and scary way to do something that is the option my body seems to take. Some of the complications included: hyperemesis, low blood pressure, haemoglobin issues, vasa previa, irritable uterus, threatened labour 21wks, 27wks,29wks,30wks, 31wks, 32wks and finally born 34wks, gestational diabetes, and of course the fact that I was carrying identical twins who started to develop twin to twin transfusion discordant growth around 29wks. I was on bedrest from 16wks which was just after Term 4 ended for 2004. I went onto early medical maternity leave as soon as Term 1 2005 started. Bedrest with an active 3yr old can be challenging but he was (still is) a really great kid. I spent five weeks in Royal Womens at Randwick and eventually I delivered at 34wks. I know that I would have always had increased monitoring for a second pregnancy because our son we born at 31wks, but honestly nothing prepared me for the monitoring with my girls. I am incredibly blessed to have had amazing medical care for both of my pregnancies resulting in three healthy babies premmie yes but healthy!
All of this background is a lead up to how I got through after they were born. Sure my pregnancy was long, exhausting and complicated, this in no way prepared me for after they were here. I am incredibly blessed with amazing family support but sometimes it can be hard to talk about the challenges without sounding like a whinging cow and an ungrateful shit! Don’t get me wrong my twins are the most incredibly blessing I have (along with my son!) but sometimes I wonder why me? Why the hell did I get twins! I could barely cope with the one baby I already had so two more who was I kidding I would be a blubbering mess! Heaven help these children. Thankfully there are two of us parenting them but still oh boy!
During my pregnancy I found and joined my local Multiple Birth Group. I remember the first time I went along I was heavily pregnant and there were all these babies around I don’t think I left feeling more encouraged! Not their fault more just that I was petrified of what we were in for. When my girls were little I actually didn’t get out all that much to any of the events with my local group. For no other reason than I just found it all too hard. Plus I had (still have) a number good friends who had babies around the same time as I had the twins so it was almost like we had our own little Mothers Group. The only thing was that as much as I love them all there was just something I couldn’t get across that having twins is different.
Those that already had an older child (like me) had two arms, two children, two parents and so on. Without sounding too dramatic the fact is older child plus twins equals always outnumbered! Not enough arms when I was home alone, more children than parents, it is just different. Lots of people say oh isn’t it great they go through all the stages together. Um sure have you ever tried to take two toddlers to the park by yourself and leave with the same two toddlers! So we didn’t do parks very much unless I had at least one other adult (with no child of their own) when the girls were little.
Going to the shops always felt like I belonged in sideshow alley at the circus, everywhere we went we drew a huge amount of attention. We had a big double pram and a fishing seat on the front for our eldest. Many people don’t do this but for me, my pram was my sanity saver. I knew where all the kids were all the time. The size of the bus drew lots of questions that I didn’t get when I had just one baby like:
- Are they identical?
- Are you feeding them? (this is a breastfeeding reference) sometimes when I was feeling particularly cheeky I would say only when I felt like it. The fact was I didn’t breastfeed but I really didn’t feel it was anyone else’s business.
- Are they triplets? This was a particularly funny question asked of me when a good friend and I were in a parenting room. She was breastfeeding her daughter and I was bottle-feeding one of my girls and I was asked if they were my triplets. We decided if we were ever asked again we would say they were ours with different father’s just for a laugh.
- I was asked on more than one occasion if I gave birth naturally (as opposed to c-sect) frankly again not one person ever asked this question about my son but for the record my girls were a c-sect.
- I seriously lost count of how many times I was asked if the girls were IVF (again never once asked about my son) I got to the point where I answered S-E-X much to the embarrassment of the person asking the question.
- My personal favourite is how do you tell them apart. The truth is I can’t! They wear bracelets on different arms, some family members believe there is a difference in the shape of their ears, our son tells me there is a difference in the pitch of their voices. But the truth is we can’t reliably tell them apart. For me it is a guess at least 80% of the time and even then I have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Luckily for me my girls are so totally cool about everything that they know they are so similar and they laugh it off now. Truly the struggle is real!
When my girls were about nine months old we had quite a fright and were told that one of them was profoundly deaf. It was about this time that I started searching the web for something. I needed some support from those who know. Through no fault of anyone’s it was too hard to get to my local club things but I needed something. It was then that I discovered the AMBA forum and this has been my lifeline over the last nearly 11 years.
I found a tribe who understood me, I found a tribe who was going through similar experiences, I found a tribe of amazing people. These mostly women with the occasional man have become some of my closest friends. I also kept up my in person membership and as I am wont to do I got involved. Initially it was just a little bit here and there because I was back working part-time in the second half of 2006 and all of 2007. Then I found myself not working again so that little bit here and there became so much more. AMBA filled in me the corporate world that I was missing, it became my world.
I found a niche of things where I felt useful, I was able to use my creative skills, I felt valued in a way that being “just a mum” didn’t.
Australian Multiple Birth Association has something for everyone. You might love the social outings, I loved that I could jump online in my pj’s and chat to my friends anytime. You might like volunteering doing something little or like me you dip your toe and before you know it you are doing a full-time unpaid job. Through AMBA I have met some incredible people who have faced challenges that I can’t even imagine and yet they are still smiling. I have had the privilege of walking some amazing journeys with people, I have cried with them as they buried their child, celebrated with them on the births of their babies. AMBA is so much a part of my life I am not sure how I would have made it to here.
Some of my closest friends are women I have met through AMBA. They are the people I turn to in times of crisis, they are the ones I want to celebrate all the joy with. In 2016 the theme for MBAW is “Leave No Family Behind”. In Australia 2% of all pregnancies are multiple births (twins or more). Mothers predominantly are 6 times more likely have some sort of battle with Post Natal Depression. Families of triplets or more are 50% more likely to divorce in the first two years after the birth of their babies.
Of course none of this actually factors in the financial and emotional toll on families and the extra support that is needed. That is why it is so important to get involved with your local Multiple Birth Community. To make the connections with those who know. The people that can help you with the practical information:
- What car will fit all the carseats?
- Help, I need a triplet pram!
- I was only planning to have 3 months off work but how will I afford childcare for twins?
- How on earth can I settle two babies at the same time?
- I seem to always have a baby awake I am getting no sleep HELP!
- Should I separate my multiples at prep, pre-school, school.
- Gender dysmorphia
- Will we survive this?
- Budget tips
- Don’t bother with maternity clothes they will only fit til about 25wks (see my 34wk pic below I am wearing a maternity skirt that is meant to have a big girth to go over the belly – don’t believe it! The singlet top doesn’t stretch down either!)
Sure when we had our twins we got two lots of baby bonuses but with two babies that didn’t actually stretch very far. We bought a dryer, dishwasher, pram, roof pod, two lots of car seats you do the numbers on that there isn’t a whole lot left. Somehow though you make it work. You share your tips on what worked for you and listen to how others got through.
Would I ever have put my hand up for twins (or more) hell no, not a chance in this world. Would I be without them? Not on your life. Not just because I have them now so I am kind of stuck with them, but the truth is having multiples means you are part of an exclusive club, one that you can only join when you fall pregnant with twins, triplets or more. This isn’t the only reason I wouldn’t be without them the joy they bring to me, it truly is double the love, double the cuddles, double the joy. Of course the amazing people that I have met and are some of my closest friends, people I would never have known if not for my girls. But also for the strength I found within myself when I needed it most.
Here is a gallery of some of my favourite photos of my family.
Here’s a couple I left out (truly I actually left out tons!)
I’m linking up with Essentially Jess for #ibot. Jump in and check them out there are some incredible writers out there!